Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) in a 229-189 vote. The bill allows any health care entity, including hospitals, clinics or insurers, to abstain from offering abortion procedures for Ã¬reasons of conscience.Ã® The bill is not a bad concept, but the wording is not clear enough. If Congress really wants to pass legislation of this kind, it needs to try again, with a firmer definition of what Ã¬reasons of conscienceÃ® are and rethink what healthcare is really about.
Religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics and other entities backed by other pro-life organizations have faced a number of lawsuits in recent years because they have refused both to perform abortions for patients and to refer them to facilities that will fulfill their needs. These groups have, in turn, fought against these lawsuits by lobbying for laws like the ANDA, that allow them the Ã¬right to chooseÃ® to perform an abortion.
But one has to ask, what are Ã¬reasons of conscience?Ã® Can any health insurance provider say that for Ã¬reasons of conscienceÃ® they choose not to cover abortion, even if they have no religious affiliation? For instance, student healthcare plans provided by some universities often cover 100 percent of abortion costs. WhatÃs to stop these providers from suddenly establishing Ã¬reasons of conscienceÃ® and refusing to cover the procedure?
In order for Congress to maintain its standards of fairness, hospitals should have the right to choose. More importantly though, if legislators and hospital officials asked themselves what the primary duty of any healthcare provider is, they would see that this issue is void, because their first duty is to preserve the health and well-being of every patient to their personal standards, no matter what procedure that may require.